Dyslexia is an unexpected thing for a writer to love. But I do love it, despite the frustrations it brings to dyslexics themselves. Dyslexia has been a great gift to me as a writer. I myself am not dyslexic; in fact, if there were such a thing as an opposite to dyslexia, I’d have it. I devour text, searching for words to read like a feral animal scrounges for food. I read fast and almost relentlessly, often despite my intentions to steer my attention elsewhere. I need to read (almost as much as I need to write) in order to feel whole and alive. But in the past 4 ½ years, my appreciation of the value of the written word has increased exponentially (and this from someone who for years has trumpeted the book, the library, and the internet as the first, second and third best inventions ever – never mind sliced bread or the wheel, or even chocolate). The simple reason for this is that I have been living among story-loving dyslexics. Their creative spelling stretches my understanding of how language can work. Their love of hearing the written word out loud has made me a much better reader, more thoughtful and resonant and able to communicate the spirit of the page. The struggles they face with processing the written word have made me not only admire them as individuals, determined to access the narratives of life that matter to them however difficult or tiring reading text may be, but it has also made me appreciate the importance of story to a human being in a way that no critical essay, no college course, no fiction workshop, no other experience of a life linked to books and writing has. They have such deep joy in story, and have been for me the most enthusiastic recommenders of books (and I know if they are recommending a book, it was worth a lot of effort to them) as well as the most engaged audience for a freshly-written poem or article. They are for me great reminders of the magic of the written word. As Christopher Vogler puts it in The Writer’s Journey:
“…writing is magic. Even the simplest act of writing is almost supernatural, on the borderline with telepathy. Just think: We can make a few abstract marks on a piece of paper in a certain order and someone a world away and a thousand years from now can know our deepest thoughts.”
And magic that good is worth fighting for. Hug a dyslexic and help them access writing that matters to them in any way possible. Read with the kids in your life. Buy audiobooks for a library, shelter, or school. Support the wonderful array of literacy-related organizations around (see some suggestions in the “giving and getting” links). Scribe a memory, a story, or a letter for someone who can’t write themselves. Be a volunteer reader or reading tutor. If there ever was a hopeful, creative moment in human history, it was the one when we taught ourselves to write and I’m for continuing that hope and creativity, in all the ways we can. Hugs included.